Passamaquoddy Mythological Characters

The following are a few of the mythological characters which play a part in many of the stories of the Passamaquoddies. They are all given on one of the cylinders of the phonograph:

  • Leux. Mischief-maker. In certain stories, simple fellow.
  • Kewok. A formless being with icy heart, and when mentioned regarded as a terrible one.
  • Pedogiic. Thunder.
  • Pesok que tuk. Lightning.
  • Ooargamess. Small beings who live about rocks and chatter in unknown tongue. Have been seen in late times.
  • Lumpagonosis. Water beings.
  • Kelphit. A shapeless (medicine) being who is turned over twice each year. Under him are found flowers.
  • Pogumpt. Black Cat, Fisher.
  • k’Chebollock. The Spirit of the Air. This being is said to be without body, but to have a heart, wings, head, and legs.
  • Cadoux. Spirit of Night. Said to have been seen lately. An evil spirit which tears bark from the wigwam, and in many ways frightens the Indians.
  • Pook-jin-squess. The Jug. Called also the toad woman. In some Indian stories spoken of as governor.
  • Noosagess. A being associated with the wind.
  • Squaw-oc-t’moos. Swamp woman.
  • Mousham. Grandfather.
  • Glooscap. The beneficent being whose deeds are generally superhuman, and who figures in many heroic tales of the Passamaquoddies. The term as applied to a man is one of contempt. To call a man glooscap, or a woman glooscapess, is to call them liars.
  • Chematiquess. The big rabbit. There are many tales in relation to Chematiquess. The new one which I have treats of his efforts to escape Glooscap.
  • Mickemnise. The good fellow. I have also heard the Ouargamiss called Mickeminn.
  • Hespens. The raccoon.
  • Quarbet. The giant beast.
  • M’Sartoo. The Morning Star.
  • Consuce. The ancients; said to be the fabricators of stone things. These were the makers of the stone axes or tomahawks which are found in the territory once inhabited by the Passamaquoddies.

The accompanying plate illustrates the above mentioned story of Pogump and Pookjinsquess, the original of which was drawn on birch bark by Noel Josephs.

Since the above was written, I have spent some time at Zuñi Pueblo, New Mexico, during which my studies of aboriginal language with the phonograph were continued. While it is too early to state the exact value of the records obtained, it may be interesting to know that I have succeeded in obtaining some important specimens of the songs, stories, and prayers of this tribe in the course of the summer. The songs of the sacred dances of the Zuñians are particularly adapted to successful recording with the phonograph. Of these there were obtained several so-called Ko-ko songs, such as are sung in the Kor-kok-shi or rain dances. The song sung at the Ham-po-ney, an ancient dance celebrated every eight or ten years by the women, was also obtained from one of the participants. This dance, an elaborate corn-dance, is said to be an ancient ceremony, and is, next in importance to the dedication of the houses, one of the most striking events in the Zuñian calendar. The rarity of its performance, and the possibility that when next performed it may be greatly modified, give a unique value to this record.

The most important of the ceremonies of the winter at Zuñi Pueblo is undoubtedly the Sha-la-ko, at which certain of the houses to the number of seven, which have been built during the past year, are dedicated. The song and prayer of the Sha-la-ko was sung for me into the phonograph by one of the Zuñians, who had, as I was told, taken part in the celebration a few years ago.

Among other interesting records may be mentioned the prayer of the hunter to his fetish when on the hunt; and that of the Priest of the Bow, formerly sung when he went to war with the Navajos. I also obtained a song of the She-vo-la dance, which bears evidence of great antiquity.

I failed to get what I especially desired, viz., a record of the Zuñi ritual or history of the tribe. Although repeatedly promised that it should be given, and while at one time I thought that I had obtained part of it, I must acknowledge an utter failure to accomplish what was hoped in this line. The Zuñi epic, so called, is still unrecorded on the phonograph, although at one time I was so confident that I had obtained it, that I stated such to be the fact, and my statement has appeared in print.
There is among the Zuñians an interesting ceremonial for rain, which is observed on the night before the departure of the pilgrims who visit the Sacred Lake for water, as a preparation for the first of the solstitial rain dances. I have been able to obtain the chant and words of this ceremonial, called the Dw-me-chim-che, from one who has taken part in it. The observance is so primitive, and bears so many evidences of antiquity, that a record of the chant has an importance, in the study of the customs of this interesting people, second to none with which I am familiar.

Experience has taught me that records of songs are the best which can be obtained. These are, as a rule, better adapted to the phonograph. Rituals and prayers are repeated in such a low tone that they are, as a general thing, imperfectly reproduced on the wax cylinders of the phonograph. A natural timidity of the Indians with respect to repeating the sacred formulae, and the absolute fear which some of them have when the records are repeated to them by the phonograph, prevented my obtaining many of these valuable records. Still I have made a beginning, and have obtained enough to demonstrate the value, I think, of the instrument, in the preservation and study of aboriginal folk-lore.

I have prepared an elaborate account of the ceremonies witnessed by me, in many of which the songs, formulae, and prayers of the participants were repeated on the phonograph, and the records themselves will be published as soon as they are carefully worked out.

Fewkes, J. Walter. Contribution to Passamaquoddy Folklore: Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition. Reprinted From The Journal Of American Folk-Lore, October-December, 1890.

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